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When Adam Freedman - a straight, cis teen from Piedmont, California - goes to stay with his older sister, Casey, in Brooklyn, he fantasizes about a summer of freedom, new friends, and falling in love. He’s in for a surprise.

It’s 2006, and Casey has thrown herself into NYC’s lesbian and trans activist scene - marriage equality marches, L Word-watching parties, BDSM sex clubs, and trans rights protests. Adam tags along, having fun in places he’d never have expected, but he’s surrounded by lesbians, and it seems like the last thing he’ll find is a girlfriend. That is, until he meets Gillian. Adam is soon hopelessly, desperately in love...only there’s just one small problem. Gillian thinks he’s a trans man.

Ariel Schrag’s scathingly funny and poignant debut novel puts a fresh spin on questions of love, attraction, self-definition, and what it means to be part of a community.

302 pages, Paperback

First published June 10, 2014

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About the author

Ariel Schrag

22 books233 followers
Ariel Schrag was born in Berkeley, California. She is the author of the novel Adam, and the graphic memoirs Awkward, Definition, Potential, Likewise, and Part of It. Potential was nominated for an Eisner Award and Likewise was nominated for a Lambda Literary Award.

Adam was made into a feature film directed by Rhys Ernst and produced by James Schamus’s Symbolic Exchange. Schrag wrote the screenplay. It premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and won the Grand Jury Prize at the Mezipatra Queer Film Festival, a Grand Jury Award for Outstanding Directing at Los Angeles Outfest, and was nominated for a GLAAD award for Outstanding Film -- Limited Release.

Schrag was a writer for the USA series Dare Me, based on the Megan Abbott novel, the HBO series Vinyl and How To Make It In America, and for the Showtime series The L Word.

She has written comics and articles for The New York Times Book Review, Cosmopolitan, New York Magazine, USA Today, and more. Her original art has showed in galleries across North America and Europe.

Schrag graduated from Columbia University with a degree in English Literature. She teaches the course Graphic Novel Workshop in the writing department at The New School and has also taught classes at Brown University, New York University, Butler University, and Williams College.

She lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 567 reviews
Profile Image for Sasa.
281 reviews116 followers
June 23, 2020
TRIGGER WARNINGS: homophobia, cissexism, transphobia, incestuous voyeurism, voyeur

Perpetuates every wrong thing that society does to oppress minorities. The protagonist does shit like helping and joining their friend in watching their sister have sex with another woman. That's deplorable. And then pretending to be trans to get into a girl's pants? This book is a hard pass.

He gets the girl in the end despite her specifically saying she's a lesbian and she doesn't like penises (which cissexism and transphobia much?). That doesn't happen in real life and it's a really unhealthy attitude to keep thinking lesbian women will just "change their mind."

Bottom line: if you don't know how to write about being part of the LGBT+ community in a respectable way, then don't write.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for t x.
2 reviews
September 13, 2016
if you heard that the writing was deplorable, insulting to your mom, lesbians, and trans folks to boot, you might want to know that it's also racist af. i picked this up out of curiosity for what the buzz was all about but eventually lost a bunch of respect for myself for doing so, as more and more racist comments unfolded throughout the story. it's kind of terrifying that it seems like i'm the first reviewer to point them out on here.

from pretty much featuring all white characters (in new york of all places) to comments about "weird asian pussies," the cracker lez who wrote this book has got her racism on lock. from the get go, adam pictures a "hot redhead" as the (white) girl he'll fall in love with in (the white version of) new york. there's one chapter that opens up by describing what adam sees in queens as he first arrives in new york and it's literally full of racist shit about black people ("it was weird to adam that the whole civil rights movement had pretty much started over a fight to not have to sit in the back, and now the back was the only cool place to sit. especially for black kids." p. 39). later on, he meets a black lesbian and the white author makes sure that a racist gesture is thrown in there ("'what do you, adam?' asked jackie. jackie was butch, too, and black. you're black, thought adam." p. 187). we also even see the n word at one point. i'm sure our beloved author would just explain the advice imparted to her in her creative writing classes at columbia about "just getting into her characters." the thing with writing racist shit, bad white young adult fiction writers in denial, is that it's a bad move in every aspect and if at all attempted, should at least be in first person, rather than third, since that pretty much seals your place as our Racist Ass Narrator.

as a queer person who is kind of really interested in reading things that don't just feel like white people happily distributing white hegemony and flat out racism to my communities, i'd avoid this book at all costs. it's not worth the time you could have spent on another more unabashedly young adult fiction novel, trust me.
Profile Image for Emma.
26 reviews17 followers
October 14, 2014
An awful, repulsive, transphobic, mess.

I didn't have high expectations going into this, I've had about enough of well-intentioned cis opinions on trans people, but I was willing to give Schrag the benefit of the doubt. And at first it seemed like it might actually not be that bad. Yes, the protagonist is a terrible person, but the implication was that he would grow. Yes, the trans people we see at the beginning of the novel were all one-dimensional, self-centered skater bros, but EVERY character was pretty terrible so it was just a minor annoyance.

But Adam does not grow. He is just as much of a transphobe at the end of the book as at the beginning, viewing the trans bodies at Camp Trans as disgusting, and thinking of cis people as inherently "biological". And the reader is stuck in his head for the ENTIRE BOOK. The use of Adam as an 'everyman' protagonist implies that Schrag believes that the natural thought process of the reader is that trans people are illegitimate and gross.

While every character is awful, the trans people are awful in stereotypically transphobic ways. The ONLY real trans woman character is an aggressive, domineering cheater. The trans men are depicted as being perpetually adolescent and self-obsessed.

Moving away from the trans milieu is seen as an act of maturity, for example Adam's sister's reaffirmation of herself as "gay" rather than "queer" at the end.

I am appalled that this book has been promoted as some great breakthrough in LGBT fiction, or YA fiction. Schrag is clearly writing from intimate personal experience of the queer community she depicts, yes, and there are moments of uncomfortable (and comic) recognition in the first half of the book. But ultimately it is not her identity that is at stake here, and not she that stands to lose from the, I would argue inevitable, misconceptions about trans lives that will follow from Adam's new exemplary status. A "warts-and-all" portrayal of any in-group is only courageous if the dominant portrayal of said group is improbably clear-skinned. For trans people, no such corpus of positive images exists--women tend to exist as walk-on punchlines, murder victims, predators, or at best vacuous agents of cis people's personal growth, while men don't exist at all. For a cis author to shrug and claim, as Schrag has in interviews, that she is simply telling an honest story is to ignore the profound political and cultural implications involved in producing a heavily-publicized "authoritative" portrayal of a vulnerable group to which one does not personally belong.

In other words, it's possible to debate how "honest" the depiction of the queer scene in Adam is. But this is not the moment--as transgender people are just beginning to crest the cultural horizon as actual people, not case studies or symbols--for such a disingenuous defense of (cis) artistic license.

Should anyone doubt that misconceptions about trans people are being left entirely intact by this book, incidentally, I would point them to the headlines of many of the reviews--"Boys Will Be Boys (And Sometimes Girls)" in the Miami Herald, for example.

Profile Image for Ocean.
Author 4 books50 followers
December 2, 2016
Seriously, why is this woman considered to be a queer icon? That’s not a rhetorical question. Has anyone actually read any of her books? They’re full of hatred towards queer people, especially gender-non-conforming queer women. Like, if a straight person said the things that she says, their books would be protested, but she’s queer and she wrote some cute and insightful comic books when she was in high school nearly two decades ago, so we should just let her say this shit unchecked?
In this book: butch queer women are repeatedly called ugly. Trans people are called ugly and freaky. A straight boy pretends to be trans because trans people are oh so much more privileged than cis people! There’s some racist shit thrown in there for good measure. And some sexual coercion, why the fuck not? Why not go all out?
I’m sure this book’s fans will be all, “OMG this is how people really talk, get over it.” But you know what? I’m not interested in that. Queer literature shouldn’t be a jagged mirror of straight society, reflecting back the hateful and frankly boring rhetoric that people spew at us. It should be a space that’s about our resilience, our strength, our beauty, our brilliantly unsafe lives. Of course, not all queer life is perfect. Queer people do shitty things and can be just as horrible as anyone else. But this just feels…mean-spirited? Unnecessary? Like it’s really not good writing?
This book doesn’t deserve to be labeled as queer literature. Ariel Schrag seems to be, for all intents and purposes, someone who wishes they were a completely obnoxious straight dude and is angry that they aren’t and is letting the entire world know it throughout their completely mediocre writing. That’s fine, but why’s it gotta be aimed at queer people? Why are you telling all the baby butches and tiny trans tots that they’re ugly when they’re just trying to find themselves reflected in a book? They’re not showing up in books as often as they’re showing up in real life. They need this space. In “Adam,” the space is essentially being desecrated.
The BEST part is that the characters all go to a L word viewing party…for a season where Schrag was a staff writer! JUST IN CASE it wasn’t obnoxious and self-referential enough. I’m surprised one of the (one-dimensional and unlikeable) lesbian characters doesn’t whip out her copy of “Definition” while we’re at it.
Librarians, booksellers—do the world a favor and take this book out of the queer section. Put it in general fiction, where it belongs. (In case you’re wondering why I’m ranting about this book that everyone else forgot about 2 years ago, it’s because it appeared on a list of Recommended Queer Reads at the San Francisco Public Library of all places. I thought, “aah, what the hell.” As my partner said recently, hate-reading is my second-favorite activity (right after snuggling).) Stop uncritically lauding queer authors just because they’re queer and pay attention to the bullshit they’re spewing. Question why there are brilliant authors (I’m thinking Gabby Rivera of “Juliet Takes A Breath” fame for starters) whose books don’t have half the distribution that this book does. I guess homophobia, transphobia and racism are just more marketable. More palatable. And that...leaves me feeling very hopeless.
Profile Image for Oriana.
Author 3 books3,373 followers
May 20, 2018
**Update. This review is getting a lot more attention now that they've announced a movie, so I just want to clarify: This is a bad book. It takes me awhile in my review to wind around to that, but it's crucial that everyone know this upfront. The whole plot is based on a fundamental, fucked-up deception, which is not just irresponsible but downright dangerous for a community (trans people) who have long been derided, abused, and even murdered for being deemed "deceptive." I cannot believe Ariel Schrag did this, and that it's continuing to be celebrated with a movie deal.**

The cover of this book includes the following endorsement by Alison Bechdel: "The sexual revolution is finally over, and Ariel Schrag has won." Flavorpill loved this too. Two brilliant GR-ers whose taste I totally trust both 5-starred it, one even saying that she's "obsessed" with it. So this was a slam-dunk in my head before it even arrived in the mail.

But you guys? I kind of hated it.

Let me start by saying this: I think that conceptually this book is important. It is in may ways groundbreaking and transgressive and necessary right now, seeing as how trans rights are the next frontier in the culture wars. And I am completely, obviously, 100% pro trans rights. As a cis & hetero lady, I do my best to be an ally, and to check my privilege, and to educate myself at every opportunity on gender and sexuality and all the proper theories.

So do not for one second think I am reacting negatively because this is a mainstream, basically YA novel that is filled with queer and trans characters, that portrays them as real people, that gives voice to their struggles and their thoughts and their reality. That is all fantastic.

So what's my problem? Well, two things.

First, I am not the audience for this book. The very reason this is so necessary is because the majority of folks in this backward-ass country do not educate themselves on gender theory and do not check their cis and hetero privilege, and so for the same reasons that we need racial diversity in movies, we need sexual diversity in literature. Duh, right? But I am neither a person being exposed to all this for the first time who needs to be educated about others' reality, nor a person who knows all of this inherently because it is their struggle but still really needs to see it all normalized in popular culture.

So the fact that this book is essentially Queer/Trans Theory 101 disguised as a novel just made me bored. Watching through the eyes of a seventeen-year-old as the gender continuum is explained made me bored. Being taught about the need for different gender pronouns made me bored. Being walked slowly through the difference between gender identity and sexual preference made me so. fucking. bored.

That part is my fault. The other part, though, is Ariel's fault.

Here's that: This is a book about a fundamental, massive, horrifying deception. I'm going to spoiler a little bit, but you already know this if you've read the book description, so here's what happens: .


It's fucked up on a level worthy of a person who has NO comprehension of gender theory and history, NO sympathy for the plight of a trans or even queer person. The only way, you assume, that an author who clearly DOES have the right comprehensions and sympathies can let her main character do this is if he is roundly and completely punished in the end, made to understand just how horrible of a thing that was to do.

But does this happen? Uh, spoiler: nope.

Oh it's true that Adam kind of learns his lesson, but not really, and he just gets off the hook like goddamn nothing. And! What happens to his love interest in the rushed epilogue-y chapter after their affair is over is just incomprehensible.

Weirdly, as the book went on, the writing got stronger and tighter and better -- directly inversely proportional to the plot getting more and more and more appalling and problematic.

I don't get it, Ariel. What the fuck happened?
1 review
May 14, 2018
As a gay trans man, this book is absolutely vile and sickening to read.

This book describes trans men attracted to women as 'lesbians', which is completely transphobic to say the least - they are not lesbians because they are not women, they are straight trans men. The book implies that a trans man is still a woman if he hasn't had gender reassignment surgery yet. The author clearly did no research on actual trans people, as I have never met a single straight trans man who identified as a lesbian, because we are NOT WOMEN.

The main character made me incredibly uncomfortable and disgusted me. He (a cis boy) pretends to be a trans man in order to get a lesbian to like him and become attracted to men - this is essentially CONVERSION THERAPY. His girlfriend in question even says she started fantasising about Adam being a 'real guy' which is horrendously transphobic as it implies that we are not real men, which simply isn't true. At one point Adam is even described as 'feeling trans in his own way'. This makes it seem like our identity is something that can be stolen and taken advantage of by cis people who shouldn't have it, when we are dealing with the real struggle every day.

At another point in the book, Adam and his girlfriend Gillian are getting it on, and Adam claims to be penetrating her with a strapon but is in fact using his actual penis. This is RAPE. This cannot be defined as anything but rape. He is lying to her and penetrating her without her consent. She did not consent to that. Anything that happens in the bedroom without both people's consent is RAPE, and this book treats it as if it is nothing.

In summary, I have never read a book that repulsed me more than 'Adam' and I would not recommend it to anyone else if it were the last book on earth. This is not 'groundbreaking', this is not 'hilarious', this is in no way 'revolutionary'. This is not representation. This is not what we need as a community. After publishing this monstrosity, Schrag does not deserve a place in our community any more. Do not give this book the attention it does not deserve. This is a book that
demonises trans men and women, glorifies rape and dishonesty within a relationship, dehumanises all members of the LGBTQ community and should never be read by a single person on this planet ever again. I am utterly appalled and disgusted by it.
Profile Image for Christina (A Reader of Fictions).
4,280 reviews1,654 followers
Shelved as 'dnf'
July 14, 2014
Pages Read: 43

This book is making me really uncomfortable. I wanted to read this because of the LGBTQ+ stuff, but I've not even gotten to that aspect. Basically, I hate the MC. He's a horrible person and I don't want to spend any more time in his head. The only LGBT stuff that's happened is his lesbian sister telling him that a summer in NYC will make everyone at his school want to suck his dick. Oh yeah, and Adam and his friend watching his sister and her girlfriend have sex. The swearing and stuff in this book even makes ME uncomfortable and I'm a big fan of swearing. I feel like it's being intentionally crude just to shock, rather than being real.

I really wanted to love this, but it's so obviously not for me.
Profile Image for Danny.
1 review8 followers
May 16, 2018
Relentlessly transphobic, which I found personally offensive as a trans person. Gratuitous use of the "r" word for no reason at all-- many other, and less offensive, terms could have been used instead. Misrepresentation of trans men as misogynistic, hypersexual, assholes-- or them being represented as being only this way. Over-usage of "ugly" to describe butch/MOC women, emphasizing the expectation of all women to adhere to cisnormative, heteronormative standards of beauty. I found this especially disappointing coming from a queer woman writer. I don't care if this was supposed to be a reflection of an immature and unexperienced 17-year-old boy, still unnecessary.

The main plot line follows a 17-year-old boy pretending to be trans so that he can date a 22-year-old queer woman (because she's so beautiful and he's too scared to venture outside of his queer sister's social world and seek out straight women), lose his virginity, and be popular with his bros back home/ impress his best friend who is coming to visit him in New York. I find this to be a particularly dangerous rhetoric in a time when anti-transgender bathroom bills are backed by the idea that trans people are "faking" it in order to take advantage of women.

Here are more of my thoughts about this gross book
Profile Image for Gregory Baird.
196 reviews759 followers
February 9, 2017
When I first picked up Adam, I confess I was simultaneously intrigued and repulsed by its premise. You see, Adam has the audacious idea to take the standard rom-com premise where someone pretends to be someone/something they're not, and throw in gender norms and sexuality as a twist. It all starts when 17 year-old Adam goes to visit his lesbian sister in New York City for the summer. He's determined to lose his virginity and make all his friends back home jealous, but finds himself surrounded by his sister's lesbian and trans friends. When he falls for a lesbian at a party, Adam pretends to be trans in order to date her. Done right, it has the potential to be a scurrilous take-down of society and what is considered normal. Done wrong, it's just plain offensive.

Well, Ariel Schrag has a lot to answer for. Because she did it wrong. Big time.

To start with, Adam has some hideously unlikable characters. You don't need likable characters to make a book succeed (just look at Lolita--a book that made its controversial premise pay off, I might add), but I feel like in order for this book to work you need to be on Adam's side. And you're not. He's a selfish, spoiled, self-involved brat. We're supposed to think that Adam grows up as the story progresses because he eschews his prior desperation for popularity, but that doesn't make what he does any less reprehensible.

I think Schrag was trying to make some astute points about how hard it is to figure out who you are in a world so caught up with labels, bless her heart, but the message got seriously diluted. Oh, and the story is set in 2006, but it doesn't seem that there's a reason for this beyond allowing characters to make constant (constant) references to the TV show The L Word, which--wouldn't you know?--Ariel Schrag wrote for.

I don't usually like to get into spoiler territory, but there's no way to discuss what's so awful about this book without going there. So if you don't want to know, turn away now.

Prior to this book, there was only one novel I ever threw across the room in frustration and anger: Angels & Demons, by Dan Brown. Now there are two.

Grade: F
Profile Image for shady boots.
500 reviews2,041 followers
Shelved as 'fucking-never'
July 22, 2019
Update: This is a Twitter thread from an extra that was hired for the movie adaptation of this book, and I honestly didn't think I could be more disgusted than I already was. Please read and spread it around; do not see this movie. Do not support it. https://twitter.com/cervine_salad/sta...

I know I haven't been on this site for a whole year, but I heard about this book on Twitter because it's apparently being made into a movie. The plot of this book disgusts me so deeply, I'm literally shaking with anger as I write this.

To trivialize trans identities into just...costumes you can put on in order to TRICK LESBIANS INTO BEING STRAIGHT? So not only is it ABHORRENTLY transphobic but it also thinks lesbians can just be converted with a snap of a finger, as if their sexuality is just a delusion they can shake away when they find "the right guy". What in the actual fuck possessed the author to write something like this? How the fuck did a TRANS MAN agree to direct the movie? HOW THE HELL DID THIS GET PUBLISHED?

Do not fucking read this book, and do not support the movie when it comes out. This trash doesn't even deserve to be associated with the LGBTQ community cause it makes a mockery out of all of us. And fuck the author for writing this, I can't even pretend to be nice about it. If you're reading this, fuck you.
Profile Image for Meghan.
1,329 reviews38 followers
January 17, 2015
I don't know if I can get through this without just hate reading, since there are some issues of consent and I've read two chapters and I hate being in this guy Adam's head so much, he's such a ... this is one of his thoughts:

"What the fuck was that retard bitch talking about?"

Adam, I don't like you.
Profile Image for Kara.
539 reviews166 followers
May 14, 2018
So horribly offensive that I DNFed it on page 112. I'm lucky I made it that far. Trans folks and lesbians deserve better than this.

AND UPDATE. It's being made into a movie now? UGHHHHH. BOYCOTTTTTTTTTT.
Profile Image for Jessica.
593 reviews3,365 followers
May 13, 2014
In a more normal world, I'd agree that a book where characters can't express the simplest thought without dropping six "f-bombs" and which includes a graphic (and hilarious) jaunt through a sex club is maybe a bit racy for the tykes. However, I'm not sure why, in this troubled world of ours where seven-year-olds are regularly exposed to Miley Cyrus, a book like this can't be marketed as YA.

Fortunately, despite meeting the criteria (except the PG test) for classic YA, Adam is sophisticated, funny, and fascinating enough for all but the crustiest adult readers. Novels should be novel, and as such they fail if their readers sense they've been written before.

This book definitely hasn't been written before. It's totally novel and exciting and so much of its (our!) time, while maintaining the timeless elements of a classic coming-of-age story. Adam is hilarious and brave, with its pitch-perfect fun-poking at a group of people who are often ignored, exoticized, derided, or treated with carefully policed phrasing and a stifling sensitivity. Schrag portrays her trans characters, young lesbians, hapless straight-boy hero, and other players as largely driven by their own insecurities and anxiety and desire to be accepted -- in other words, as human beings. Somehow Adam pulls off a balancing of honest but not mean, comic while insightful, transgressive and fun while ultimately pretty darn sweet. The plot was engaging and I read the whole thing in basically one sitting because I felt pulled along and simply wanted to know what would happen -- would Adam get the girl? Where was this going? Could Schrag pull it off? How could this possibly end??

One thing I thought was cool was that I imagined this book would make sense to a young heterosexual man who hasn't really been exposed to queer culture or thinking about gender or LGBTWHATEVERGATRILLIONLETTERSAREBEINGPROMOTEDNOW issues, and I'm really curious if that's true. From what I understand Ariel Schrag must resemble a horny teenage boy herself, and I think Adam successfully uses the currency of adolescent hormones and insecurity to explain important things that otherwise might elude that demographic, helping to elevate the wider population's grasp of sexuality and gender past the "How do lesbians have sex?" and "Dude look like a lady" stage.

In the end, I felt I'd seen a fascinating and astute snapshot of a certain time and place, and seen human beings caught, on the one hand, in the specifics of their situation, while behaving pretty much the way that we always do. That is, the characters seemed real to me, both in terms of the history and sociology being represented, and as acting like real-life young people. Finally, Adam delivered a satisfying, complete story and a commentary on the complexity and fluidity of gender, sexuality, and growing up. Highly recommended!
Profile Image for Ian.
6 reviews3 followers
January 9, 2015
Look, all the deep and significant flaws with the representation in this book are reflected in other reviews. Yes-- they offended the heck out of me (me-- the 22 year old trans guy). Racism, antisemitism, transphobia, biphobia, etc etc were deeply ingrained in this book. Any one star review addresses those things. I have something I would like to add. The writing is just straight up bizarre. Besides reading like a queer theory 101 textbook with all kinds of stilted dialogue, there were some moments that left me scratching my head. Here are a few examples.

"The sandwiches all come with american cheese-- the kind we love that McDonald's uses."

Why do you need to explain what american cheese is to a seventeen year old boy living in america? Who are you explaining american cheese to? Are you trying to establish that their privileged upbringing mostly sheltered them from american cheese?

"Someone was using the toilet. A large fart erupted from the stall and Adam cringed. Something about women farting was just so much grosser than men farting. He gagged a little behind his mask and was about to leave when he heard the person's voice. She was on the phone and it was [his sister]."

What does this add to the story? He already finds out that it's his sister on the toilet by hearing her voice. Does his thought about women farting add some kind of element of characterization? I have to go with probably not.

There was another part where Adam's sister's roommate went on a date with a girl she met on an online dating site. This girl was: ugly, stupid, spoke exclusively in strange random non sequiturs, and picked her nose in public. Why is all of this necessary? The girl was in the book for maybe one chapter, played a very minor role in the drama of the apartment, and had absolutely no redeeming qualities or anything to make her seem like an actual real life human in any way at all. It's too much!!! It's heavy-handed!!! It comes off as ridiculous!!!

Also, there is no scale on earth by which I would be measured a prude but if this book is supposed to be YA, I have to say I would not recommend it for YA readers. Does sex exist? Yes. Should it be represented in YA? Absolutely. Should it be a constant barrage, assaulting the reader with vivid details of every form and function of sex imaginable? I don't think so. I mean, part of me has to admit that it's nice to see more than the standard insert tab a into slot b vanilla vaginal intercourse represented, but it was a lot. A lot a lot. So much.

TL;DR: Bizarre, heavy-handed, would not recommend
Profile Image for Kats.
692 reviews44 followers
March 2, 2015
In Adam our eponymous 17 year old hero from the San Francisco Bay area manages to persuade his mother to let him spend the summer before his final year at high school with his lesbian sister, Casey, in New York City. Apparently, their parents don't know that their daughter is lesbian nor what she gets up to in New York (she's a student at Columbia but she seems to be spending most of her time attending "queer sex" parties and other orgies).

If Adam was written with a teenage readership in mind, I worry about what language has become acceptable in that generation, and more importantly what kind of behaviour. Sorry - I turned 40 last year, and I'm clearly embracing middle aged grumpiness with a passion; most likely I'm just out of touch. I'm no prude, and those who know me can vouch that I'm partial to a "bit" of swearing myself when opportunity arises, but the gratuitous coarse language in this book was worse than in The Slap where Christos Tsiolkas managed to drop more than 400 f-bombs in a 485 page book. My e-copy of Adam didn't allow me a quick tally of those words, but it was horrid to read when all that foul language was supposed to be coming from the mouths and minds of 17-year-olds. Okay, I believe that some/many teenage boys have a notorious obsession with sex, but Adam's mindset was so sex focussed, it actually made him an incredibly dull person. Furthermore, I suspect that the author's objective was to shock older readers and entertain younger readers, but the dialogues were cringe-worthy to me, even without all the disgusting expressions these kids used.

The storyline was unlikely (how many transgender 22 year olds happen to be hanging out in the same place?!), the characters largely unsympathetic, the protagonist an egocentric dullard, the slew of sex scenes pretty revolting, the "humour" seriously unfunny, and the writing nothing special. Another off-putting thing were the many racist as well as sexist remarks, the mocking and prejudice directed at Jews by Adam's sister and flatmates (perhaps the author thought she could get away with it, sporting a Jewish name herself, but it was all very uncouth) and the fact that these kids seemed to live in a very, very white world, albeit in the middle of New York. I am amazed that this book was entered for the Tournament of Books 2015 - the only reason I finished reading it was to see if it would get better. It didn't.

For a much better read on teenage sex and transgender issues, I recommend The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson.

Profile Image for Isa.
171 reviews41 followers
May 14, 2018
Profile Image for Emily.
Author 17 books611 followers
April 23, 2014
I am obsessed with this book. My friend Bennett describes it as "the most LOL book" he's ever read, and I concur. Its funniness comes from a profound and compassionate understanding of what it's like to be young and dealing with complex issues of identity -- sexual and gender identity and just becoming a person in general. I recommend it to anyone who's ever been been young and confused about who they had to be and how they had to act in order to be attractive, cool, and loved.
Profile Image for Thomas.
1,520 reviews8,989 followers
July 5, 2014
Warning: this review will contain an inappropriate quote. Because Adam has a lot of inappropriate things. Like recreational drug use and explicit sexual detail involving pornography. All within the first 20 pages. You have been cautioned.

Seventeen-year-old Adam Freedman has nothing to do over the summer. He decides to stay with his older sister Casey in her apartment in New York City, and right away he finds himself thrust into the lesbian subculture of 2006 - night clubs, trans people, and attractive women abound. Soon he meets Gillian, the redheaded girl of his dreams, and they fall in love - only after Adam pretends to be a trans guy. Adam would rather die than lose his new love interest, so he maintains the facade, but as his relationship with Gillian gets more and more intense, so does the deceit that drains him of his freedom.

Adam delves into the queer community and touches on often overlooked topics, especially trans culture. As a gay guy I like to think that I know a decent amount about lgbtq rights, but Adam still taught me a thing or two. Most importantly, Ariel Schrag creates honest characters - lesbians, straight men, transgender folk - all with real faults and strengths, all with the real, human desire to be loved. Some of Schrag's scenes turned into educational lessons and lost their authenticity as a result, but those moments were minor blips in the grand scheme of the novel.

Adam grew on me as a narrator. His cynical and disenchanted view of the world captured me, and he progressed from a whiny, privileged brat to a sympathetic, likeable young man. At the beginning of the book he had no direction, but that changed the moment he met Gillian, and Schrag pulled off his development well. Here's one of Adam's many interesting thoughts that exemplify how Schrag uses Adam's narrative to reflect on subversive topics in the lgbtq community:

Adam had always wondered about the whole gay masturbation thing. If you have the body parts you're fantasizing about, couldn't you just touch your own and pretend they were someone else's? Like when he sat on his hand to make it numb before jerking off. being attracted to vaginas and having the option to touch one whenever you wanted. He felt wildly jealous. Something about it just much not work.

However, I had two major issues with this book. First, Schrag did not conclude Adam's "pretending to be a trans guy" story arc well. By the end of the book I almost forgave him because he gained empathy through his facade, but he still never faced the consequences of his transgression. felt too convenient. On a more minor note, I did not appreciate .

Overall, a good book, and I would recommend it to those interested in the plot synopsis. Some will love it, some will hate it, and I can see the reasoning behind both ends.
Profile Image for Faith Simon.
198 reviews163 followers
May 15, 2018
Nope. No. Absolutely not. This is vile and complete trash. I’m never reading a single word of this.
Profile Image for Michael Livingston.
795 reviews252 followers
March 24, 2015
This is a big pile of no for me. The writing is breezy and witty and the idea of a YA-ish book that treats gender and sexuality in an open and interesting way is great, but the plot is basically offensive. The main character is unpleasant, the way he passes as a trans man to get laid is depressingly awful and the final twist, that the lesbian woman he deceives is basically fine with it and, in fact, is turned straight by the power of his dick is just gross.

More broadly, the book is clearly trying to provide some sort of education for straight clueless teenagers like the titular Adam about queer issues, but so much of the good work is undermined by the complete lack of comeuppance for him for his complete deception of his dream-girl (also: ugh to the idea that Gillian is the embodiment of some fantasy he had on his way to NYC).
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Liza Bertoli.
3 reviews1 follower
November 3, 2014
Adam is about Adam Freedman, a teenager living Piedmont, California. He moves to New York City with his older, lesbian sister Casey. There he meets Gillian who he quickly falls for. There's only one problem Gillian is Lesbian. Adam is a stupid immature teenager and his solution, pretend he's transgender. I had a really hard time getting into this book. The book is written from Adam's point of view which is painful to have to read. He thinks about making out and porn all the time, not topics I enjoy reading about. He doesn't stay true to himself and pretends to be someone else to get the girl. I wanted to enjoy this book, but I thought the plot was ridiculous, and I couldn't sympathize with the main character because he's trying to be someone he isn't. He will do anything to make out with a girl. In the beginning he smokes pot to impress Kelsey and then pretends to be trans to get Gillian. It's hard to empathize with Adam when he clearly is a hormonal mess.
Profile Image for Em.
1 review27 followers
May 15, 2018
Books about CORRECTIVE RAPE have no place in 2018 (MUCH LESS BE CELEBRATED). The contents of this book are absolutely disgusting and homophobic. I have so much more to say about this trash and the piece of absolute sh*t that wrote it, but I doubt anyone would want to read through me cursing out vile lesbophobes.
Profile Image for Sleepless Dreamer.
863 reviews242 followers
May 15, 2018
If I could, I'd ask this book to give me stars. Can't recall the last book that annoyed me this much.

The characterization in this book isn't bad and it's a fairly easy read but I genuinely think this piece of writing shouldn't be read by anyone. I'm embarrassed that this book exists. The more I think about this book, the worse it gets.

During the book, Adam claims a trans person should tell the person that they're with that they're trans because "a guy wants to know if the girl he's with has a dick". This doesn't stop him from pretending to be trans to get a girl. It's pathetic and disgusting. The fact that Gillian differentiates that much between cis folks and trans folks is also problematic.

I don't know what the author thought but it's books like these that harm the community the most. They enshrine that it's okay to believe trans people decide to be trans, that the community is a joke, lesbians can be convinced to be straight, Casey's opinions are flimsy as if she's just desperate for the acceptance.

Adam never learns anything. That's what gets me. This could have had an arch where he starts transphobic but sees the light. Instead, he likes Ethan because Ethan fits with his definition of masculinity. That drives me insane.

I could spend more time discussing June's character, how all LGBTQ characters here are essentially a joke. I don't understand why would someone spend their time writing a book like this. Don't read it. Don't give it money.

what I'm taking from this book
- People who shouldn't write books write them.
- I love the gay-trans community and I think even in a disgusting book like this, our beauty shines through.
- I wish Adam was real so I could punch him. I can't believe an author thought this book is in any way appropriate.
Profile Image for l.
1,671 reviews
May 20, 2018
Teenage boy obsesses over a lesbian, pretends to be female in order to date her, converts her. How does this get a film?
Profile Image for Daniel Jacobs.
27 reviews5 followers
May 15, 2018
Books like this are the reason my mother thinks I will be miserable if I transition. Books like this are why I'm terrified of going on T and finally doing something about my life, because of the way people will see me. Books like this make me cry myself to sleep and require a shitload of antidepressants so I don't just one day end it all.

Books like this ruined my life.
Profile Image for Missy.
49 reviews5 followers
September 30, 2014
I don't know why Ariel Schrag wrote this book. While reading it, I was wondering if it was to make our queer community look itself in the face for it's more-inclusive-than-thou tendencies and secret joy of labeling and discarding things as "problematic", or just to portray how horrible it is to be in your early 20s. The premise is ridiculous and feels as if it was born from that eternal problem of (squinting eyes) "trans guy? or teenage boy..." that folks who date trans guys always have.

It is obvious that Schrag is not writing this book to make friends. I just wish there were more books with trans lead characters that would have come out first before this book was written. It is nice to have some trans representation that shows some complexity, but I would love to hear it from a trans POV instead of a POV of someone pretending to be trans (which is not really a thing.) There were times of really disgusting misogyny that was a little jarring, since I've built myself a nice bubble home without it.

I don't really know. I'm not saying don't read it, but just... why was this written?
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